Straight out of the category labelled ‘they don’t make ‘em like this anymore’, 1988’s Waxwork is a wildly over-the-top splatter epic.

Mixing horror and comedy to a degree that rarely gets an airing these days, the movie is a fast-paced, deliciously gory opus that manages to combine plenty of in-your-face carnage with genuine laughs to good effect.

I’ll be honest, most horror comedies fail to hit the spot in my book, but, despite Waxwork focusing more on the laughs than scares, everything is done with such a sense of fun that the whole thing really works.

It is also good to see Zach Galligan in another lead role as, despite clocking up more than 50 film appearances (including this year’s slasher sequel Hatchet III), most people only ever see or remember him as Billy from Gremlins it seems.

Galligan plays Mark, who, along with three of his pals (including the delectable Michelle Johnson), head off to a local wax museum for a special late-night party.

Turns out they are the only guests, and alarm bells really should be ringing when they are welcomed by a dwarf butler (a fantastically random turn from Mihaly Meszaros).

But into the exhibits they go, with the dioramas featuring a host of legendary horror characters – vampires, werewolves and the like.

waxwork01

This is no ordinary wax museum though, as before long a couple of the party find themselves being sucked through a vortex into the dioramas for real – Johnson’s China for example, forced to fight off an army of vampires in a castle.

Behind all this nonsense is the mysterious museum owner, played with scenery-chewing relish by David Warner.

Anyways, Mark and Sarah (Deborah Foreman) eventually rumble that something is not quite right, with Mark turning for help to expert Sir Wilfred, played by a wheelchair-bound Patrick Macnee.

The police also get involved, with the whole thing boiling quite nicely to a fiery climax which ticks the right boxes.

Wax museums are obviously nothing new when it comes to a horror setting, but if anything, Waxwork has more a vibe of Fright Night than say House Of Wax.

First time director Anthony Hickox, who went on to oversee the likes of Hellraiser 3 and Steven Seagal-on-a-submarine thriller Submerged, does a solid job, mixing the laughs and frights to good effect – not bad when you consider he was also banging both female leads.

Galligan makes an off-kilter lead – not especially likeable from the outset, but a character you warm to during the film’s running time.

In fact, the acting as a whole leaves an awful lot to be desired, most notably Miles O’Keeffe’s hammy turn as Dracula.

But the gore keeps things ticking over nicely, with some really splashy effects work – a werewolf tearing a man in half (from the scalp down) anybody?

It is also, as mentioned at the outset, a whole heap of fun and it is really refreshing to find a film that really does not take itself seriously.

The film got a decent audience on its release, leading to an even wackier sequel in 1992 (also starring Galligan and directed by Hickox).

But the original is a good starting point, and if you fancy an entertaining romp that positively drips with an 80s vibe, Waxwork hits the spot.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.